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Monday, May 5, 2014

Israel At 66 Years: A Senior Citizen of the World

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                         

Einstein and Ben Gurion
"Difficult things we do quickly.  The impossible takes a little longer." 
...............David Ben-Gurion 

David Ben Gurion (1886 Poland-1973 Sde Boker, Israel- a kibbutz on the Negev), 1st Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Father of the Nation

Sixty-six years ago on May 14, 1948, the state of Israel's birth  was announced on the radio and five minutes later it was attacked by all the surrounding nations who tried to drive her into the Mediterranean Sea.  Their enemies didn't succeed and haven't for the past 66 years and Israel is still here, alive and well.  The hatred of her begrudging neighbors trying to take her life only invigorates her will to survive.  It's just the reflection of the Jews' lives for the past 2,000 years.  Good Lord, what would happen to Israel if suddenly nations started to appreciate her instead of bringing on BDS (boycotts, divestments, sanctions) in trying to bring her down?  

It should happen.  No?  Israel shares its many inventions with the world.  Israel has helped to make the desert bloom.  About 2/3 of the Middle East is a desert.  More than 60% of Israel is a desert.  The Jews, especially those at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Desert have been working on reclaiming the desert wasteland by turning rock and sand into land that is productive.  They are bringing water to this parched earth.  This act alone is worth making peace with Israel, one would think.  Their programs are going on in over 40 countries that are benefiting.  Their water program is working with Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and the PA. 

Another Portlander made aliyah in 1981,  a year after I did and has an article about Israel in our Portland magazine, Oregon Jewish Life; called "Israel at 66.-changing the world through technology."  In it he recalls the book about Israel by Saul Singer and Dan Senor called "Startup Nation, the Story of Israel's Economic Miracle" that they wrote in 2009.  

By 2009 Israel had 63 companies listed on NASDAQ.  This is a teeny state of 10,762 square miles which includes land controlled by Israel, the disputed territories.  The pre-1967 land area is 8,019 sq. miles.  This compares with the USA's 5th smallest state, New Jersey which is 7,787 sq miles in size.  Israel has a population of 8,012,400 of which 6,037,700 are Jewish.  That means that the Arabs are about 20% of the population of Israel.  Sixty-three companies are more than any other foreign country found on NASDAQ.  Today, only China, who has about 1.3 billion people, has more than Israel.  China, by the way, has the highest population in the world.  

What makes Israelis different from other people?  For one thing, they are constantly being attacked.  No other nation that I know of is living under bombardment of missiles, rockets and mortars and neighbors lined up with missiles pointed at them.  Also, they live with such threats as coming from Iran to be exterminated at any moment.  This sort of life causes most all of the population over 18 years of age to be a part of the IDF;  Israel Defense Force, or in the service.  Arab civilians do not have to participate unless they choose to do so.  Many are starting to join up.  This gives them the advantage of learning  creative thinking skills.

 In Israel's army, the soldiers are treated differently than in other countries.  The situation has been so on-going that they value creativity and intelligence more than muscles.  Israeli soldiers have little guidance from the top brass, and must learn to improvise, even if they have to break rules sometimes.  Only in cases that just happened where Arab gangs ganged up on a lone soldier in Judea/Samaria who was a guard and taunted him so badly that he felt forced to point his rifle at them---at a time when they were video-taping him, which put him in big trouble with the  top brass.  He may have to do time in jail for this great offense.  Israeli soldiers must live up to the highest standards like those we have for kashrut; perfection in the treatment of others.  In Israel's army, the junior officers call their bosses by their first names.  If you as a soldier see them doing something wrong, you can speak out and say so.

 That is a common thing that happens in all walks of life in Israel anyway.  Once  I was on a bus when I was a new immigrant and couldn't speak Hebrew,and  the bus driver forgot to let me off at the stop I had painfully asked for, and when he whizzed by it, the whole bus occupants yelled at him about it!  It's part of the culture. Speak out!  

Being a part of the IDF is a big thing.  Women must join, too.  About 50% of Israel's population join up.  After serving their 3 years, they are still a part of it by serving their milueem month every year until they are at least 50 years old.  When I lived in Israel from 1980 to the end of 1985, I was in Safed during the 1982 Lebanon crisis and  experienced the whole city's population suddenly becoming a part of the IDF which left people like me and some wives in charge of the city's functions.  I witnessed a whole unit marching by on the street made up of men with white beards, reserve forces who know what to do in case of such emergencies. 

 I automatically trotted over to my junior high which was across the street from my high rise apartment building where I taught English and just taught.  No one had to tell me or ask me to come.  The subject was never discussed.  I found then that all the men teachers were now soldiers and a woman teacher was acting as principal.  It was strange teaching that way with students huddled up in the corners of the room, afraid for their family members as the helicopters landed on the hospital up the street bringing in wounded.  When I stopped talking, the students called out, "Keep going, Nahama,"  They needed my prattle to feel something of normality.  

Israel's IDF is tech driven.  Their IDF experience produces such behaviors as loyalty, a tough as nails attitude which starts at a young age anyway, an alumni network, future partners who create founding teams that come out of the same army unit.  The army is like a fraternity, and they rely on each other when they are not serving this way.  

Israel has smart people.  Jews have had to rely on their brains in order to survive a very harsh climate of people ever since Jacob parted with his brother, Esau in about the 2nd millennium BCE.(2,000 BCE)   This shows up in such things as Nobel prizes.  Israel won 3 in recent years in chemistry.  They've created such things as optics, the smallest video camera and the PillCam.  In biotech, there is the nanowire -even human hair is thicker than this.  In computing,  the USB flash drive and a laser keyboard.  In software they created ICQ, Babylon, and Viber.  Other innovations are in physics, agriculture, economics, theoretical computer science, energy, consumer goods and defense.  They invented the Iron Dome missile defense system, but need the USA to help  with its upkeep.  There are more defense inventions they've come up with as well and they've shared many with the USA. 

Who is the world's leading patent producer?  Israel is.  It's #1 in the Western world.  The surprise is that the UN's Intellectual Property Organization gave Israel the status of a World Patent Center.  Now they are one of fifteen other nations who hold this honor.  

So many people have a cell phone.  Everyone of them is made of some components that were thought up or developed in Israel.  In a recent gathering in Barcelona, almost 200 of the 1,700 exhibits were from Israel.  That's about 1/8 were made in Israel.  

The beauty of all this is that most Israelis come from immigrants. Immigrants were kept out of Palestine at the beginning of WWII after the Jewish Homeland was to be developed-by the British themselves who held the mandate.  Therefore, Israel was deprived of more creative minds who could have developed even more inventions that would have helped the world such as the cure for cancer, possibly, for these immigrants were forced back to Germany and were slaughtered.    An Israeli faces compulsory military service well into the foreseeable future unless the Moshiach is soon to arrive, and according to orthodox figures, isn't due to arrive for another several hundred years.    

As I read Mylan Tanzer's article who is a Portland native, I laughed when I read his last paragraph about the "balagan" going on in Israel.  Balagan means chaos or mess.  I experienced a lot of it, too when I lived there.  Then I felt better since he described my house here in Gresham as he described a rather messy house, but it was owned by creative geniuses, the Israelis.  They don't have time to organize, clean or remodel but only have time to succeed through work and they create to pay the rent.  I'm not  exactly the creative genius, but I am too busy to clean and organize and lack the moola to remodel.  Now I have an excuse other than "Old Age."   

So, I see  that Israel hasn't changed much at all since I left in 1985, 29 years ago.  The time has whizzed by and it seems like it was only yesterday that I was there, teaching beautiful students without any silly hairdos, or metal things stuck into their faces, and nary a one with tattoos. I presented a lesson of how to play baseball to my suddenly interested students on my first day of teaching.  It was brand new to them!   Beautiful children looking like they were when they left their mothers' wombs, as described in our Torah were then interested in English!  They weren't much different than Americans of the same age.  .    

I had to return to the states, a fallen Yored, but Mylan Tanzer, who made aliyah in 1981,  stayed and became a founding CEO of the first Israeli cable and satellite sports channel.  From 2005 on he has launched, managed and consulted for channels and companies in Israel and Europe.  He lives in Tel Aviv.  Thank you, Mylan for staying and writing such a lovely article that I have used to relate some of the facts above.  I'm so proud to be an Israeli and proud to know that you are from Portland!  .

Update: 5/7/14: Population today is 8.18 million. Israel has grown in population from last year by 137,500 people.  The Jews make up 75% of Israel's population.
Update: 5/31/16:  Population is now 8.522 million and is 68 years old.  This is 10 times more than at its founding in 1948.  .  

Resource: Hadassah magazine, June/July 2013-Alice Hoffman on cover
Magazine: Oregon Jewish Life; May 2014, Israel culture spawns innovation for the world, by Mylan Tanzer
q=israel+size+compared+to+us+state&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=1aJnU_mVBZXroATN24CgDg&ved=0CCgQsAQ&biw=982&bih=636 on size compared to USA states
Start-Up Nation, by Saul Singer and Dan Senor

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